A.E. George pays tribute to Akporode Clark, a consummate diplomat
My life has been profoundly enriched in myriad ways since that day in 2003 that colleagues introduced me to Ambassador Blessing Akporode Clark, CON. Assigned to the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, I planned a year-long program to honor Dr. Ralph Bunche’s centenary. As was his generous nature, Ambassador Clark agreed to serve as a resource person as he knew Dr. Bunche personally and had served with him at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Fate, however, intervened, as Ambassador Clark–then 73– was injured in a swimming accident and needed time to rest and recuperate. Thank God he did. Demonstrating his signature discipline, fortitude and grace, Ambassador Clark took the necessary steps to heal. Indeed, I joined friends, colleagues, and admirers from around the world in giving thanks for his indefatigable will to recover. In so doing, he continued to demonstrate his professional prowess on the Presidential Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs. Such was his generative spirit that Ambassador Clark found time to mentor me. I benefited immensely from his prodigious intellect and profound insights into history and international affairs.
Whether in Lagos or Abuja, I sat spellbound as he regaled me with stories of his tenure as a Nigerian Foreign Service Officer. His command of diplomatic tradecraft was legendary as he, for example, understood the unacceptably high cost and profound disruptions wrought by imperialism on the world, especially the global south. In addition, his keen interest in my country’s Black Power Struggle was, no doubt, a natural outgrowth of his commitment to our global struggle for human rights. As an architect of Nigeria’s foreign policy, especially its multilateral diplomacy, I admired Ambassador Clark’s policy acumen long before I met him. As a proud member of Africa’s diaspora, I appreciated having Nigeria as a champion for Black folks the world over. Ambassador Clark understood the historical consequence and importance of this role.
I close by acknowledging Ambassador B.A. Clark as the consummate diplomat. I learned so much by listening to him and imbibing his wisdom. Each time I engaged Ambassador Clark I enjoyed a veritable feast of intellectual nourishment as he taught me lessons ranging from international affairs to insights into Africa’s most important and enduring champion, Nigeria. Rest well, dear friend, you have most assuredly earned your place among our honored Ancestors.
Chief George, Ph.D, Senior U.S. Foreign Service Officer rtd; Yeye Araba of the Source